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Quorums enable optimal pooling of independent judgements in biological systems.


ABSTRACT: Collective decision-making is ubiquitous, and majority-voting and the Condorcet Jury Theorem pervade thinking about collective decision-making. Thus, it is typically assumed that majority-voting is the best possible decision mechanism, and that scenarios exist where individually-weak decision-makers should not pool information. Condorcet and its applications implicitly assume that only one kind of error can be made, yet signal detection theory shows two kinds of errors exist, 'false positives' and 'false negatives'. We apply signal detection theory to collective decision-making to show that majority voting is frequently sub-optimal, and can be optimally replaced by quorum decision-making. While quorums have been proposed to resolve within-group conflicts, or manage speed-accuracy trade-offs, our analysis applies to groups with aligned interests undertaking single-shot decisions. Our results help explain the ubiquity of quorum decision-making in nature, relate the use of sub- and super-majority quorums to decision ecology, and may inform the design of artificial decision-making systems.

Editorial note

This article has been through an editorial process in which the authors decide how to respond to the issues raised during peer review. The Reviewing Editor's assessment is that all the issues have been addressed (see decision letter).

SUBMITTER: Marshall JA 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6374072 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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